The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

I’ve enjoyed Holly Black’s work before including the Spiderwick Chronicles and The Magisterium series. As the undisputed queen of fey stories, Holly Black is set to take on the fey world in a whole new angle. Jude, Taryn and Vivi live normal lives in the human world, well as normal as they can despite Vivi’s obvious more otherworldly nature. But when their parents are killed in front of them the sisters are taken in by the murderer, Madoc the High King’s General, to be raised in his household in the fey world.

Nearly a decade later, Jude and Taryn have endured the fey cruelties, constant condescension while being awed by the creatures’ magic. Meanwhile, Vivi, Madoc’s first-born heir, couldn’t care less about the fey or her biological father. But after years of simply turning the other cheek, Jude is determined to stand up and make her tormentors scared of a human for once.

Jude is a really, really great character. I love that despite growing up surrounded by pain, malice, and continually being treated like an irritating pet, Jude has a strength, a core that will not break. Every day they remind her of her weakness, the frailty of her human body, and every day she takes it, sitting silent while she plans and dreams of her future, the pain only strengthening her resolve. She longs to be a knight, to show her skill and talent, regardless of what everyone thinks. Her determination, inner strength and cunning make her a fantastic main character to lead this adventure. Her perspective on the fey world is truly unique, especially in such a popular subgenre, paired with her sisters’ it makes for a wonderful display of what different people would do in the same situation.

Taryn, though Jude’s twin sister, is entirely different. She is submissive, automatically standing down to appease the fey, and merely wants to forge some semblance of a decent life within the politics and back-stabbing of the court. She’s a meek, spineless character in the beginning, but as the story continues, she becomes increasingly more interesting.

As the first-born heir of the General, Vivi must deal with the intense expectations of the man that murdered her parents. While her younger sisters witnessed the same horror she did, they were young enough to be raised by Madoc and therefore view him as more of a father figure than merely their parents’ murderer. Early on, she seems like a moody teen, shut up in her room, not partaking in any ‘family’ events, including dinner. As we learn more about her, we get to see how she struggles with her personal issues as well as the weight of being related to such a bloodthirsty monster.

There is one main group that torments Jude; Locke, a charming, fox fey; Nicasia, the beautiful, savage noble born lady; Valerian, the sadistic henchman; and finally, the worst of them all, Cardan, the brutal, young prince. They all begin as bullies – and though they continue to be – we understand how they all came to be so cruel. Each of their backstories is intriguing though I was obsessed with learning more about Locke and Cardan. Locke joins in the tormenting yet without his friends around he is a charming boy who befriends Jude (a realistic thing everyone has experienced, especially during high school). Cardan is Jude’s nemesis, a manipulative, scheming, entitled jerk who makes you want to punch him in the face within the first chapter, and I couldn’t wait for Jude to take him down!

This was one of my favourite fey adventures, the fresh take on the popular genre solidified once and for all why Holly Black is the queen of the fey! I now completely understand the hype surrounding this new series and am glad I wasn’t disappointed. I give it 5/5 and have already bought the second book and pre-ordered the third.

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